The Egyptian court that sentenced deposed President Hosni Mubarak and his dreaded interior minister to life, while acquitting Mubarak's two sons, helped settle the score with the past - a process every revolution goes through. The president wasn't only deposed, he was punished.
Egypt staged a unique model of score-settling. The president's body wasn't dragged through the capital's streets, as was the case with Muammar Gadhafi, and Mubarak didn't flee his homeland like his Tunisian counterpart. Nor did he continue to kill his people as Bashar Assad is doing. Mubarak decided to stay, face trial and take his punishment.
As expected, the court's verdict also provoked a wave of angry protests, presenting the Egyptian public with an acute dilemma. Should it accept the decision handed down by a court set up after the revolution, a court representing the public and no longer the government, or should it launch a new uprising against the court? While the court examined the evidence for specific crimes, drafted in dry legal language, the public wanted the "trial of the century," as the media called it - a trial that would even the score with Mubarak for 30 years of oppression and corruption. A show trial.
This dilemma symbolizes the character of the Egyptian revolution. It's a revolution striving to rehabilitate the state, including the justice system, parliament and presidency, and change the regime's character using democratic procedures. But these procedures by their very nature can't make everyone happy.
Removing Mubarak from power in February 2011 marked the end of the dictatorship era. His trial was a successful test of a formal democratic procedure. The public's response to the verdict will determine whether Egypt is ready to place its confidence in the current justice system and adopt it as the revolution's pillar of fire and an indisputable foundation for the future.
In about two weeks Egypt will complete the revolution by electing a new president. We should wish this great country success and hope it does not have to yearn for the era in which its prisoner-president ruled.
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